Development Projects in Honduras
Poverty remains an issue in Honduras, but it is making progress in rural infrastructure development, education improvement and agriculture income growth. As reported in 2017, Honduras has a poverty rate of about 52 percent, partly due to slow economic development, extreme violence and political corruption. Those in poverty rely heavily on outside aid from the World Bank, the U.S. and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Thanks to the World Bank and its partners, major development projects in Honduras were successful, such as the Social Protection Project and the Rural Infrastructure Project. Progress is currently ongoing to reduce poverty, develop the Honduran economy and improve life for those in poor rural areas.

Social Protection Project

The Social Protection Project cost $77 million, began in 2010 and ended in 2018. Although poverty reduced from 65 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2017, poverty remains an issue and is one of the main reasons for Hondurans fleeing the country. One major effect of Honduras’ poverty is parents taking their children out of school and having them work to help the household earn a sufficient income. Since income is low, poor Hondurans often cannot afford quality health care.

Malnutrition in children under 5 was 43 percent for those in poverty and school enrollment for ages 12 to 14 was 65 percent. To combat this, the World Bank and Honduras worked together to improve education and health care. At the end of the project, school attendance increased by 5 percent for 6 to 17-year-olds and school enrollment increased by 5 percent. Child labor reduced by 2.6 percent and about 50 percent of the recipients from 0 to 23 months of age received vaccinations. More than 300,000 families benefited from the Social Protection Project. Conditional cash transfers helped reduce poverty for those who participated in the project, which granted monthly income to the extreme poor.

Rural Infrastructure Project

The Rural Infrastructure Project began in 2005 and ended in 2016. Most roads in Honduras are unpaved and about 16 percent of people in rural areas lack a clean drinking water source, which increases the risk of contracting diseases. Also, about 22 percent of sanitation facilities remain unimproved and 30 percent of those in rural areas lack electricity. The Government of Honduras worked with the World Bank to improve its lagging infrastructure because of this. The project benefited more than 300,000 households.

Among many other infrastructure improvements, the project resulted in installing 4,893 latrines and constructing 113 water and sanitation projects. The project improved more than 413 miles of roadways and financed more than 8,550 rural electrification projects, with most of the electricity powered from solar photovoltaic energy. The project also improved more than 500 miles of power lines, which made it easier to develop remote areas of Honduras such as the slums in the western part of the country.

U.S. Involvement

The U.S. is one of the main donors to Honduras. Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the U.S. grants aid to those in need of foreign assistance. The U.S. Congress created the MCC in 2004 with strong bipartisan support. The MCC spent more than $200 million in infrastructure and agriculture improvements through four major projects in Honduras from 2005 to 2010. Some of the results include more than 350 miles of rural roads improved and paved. The biggest result was increasing monthly agriculture income by $3.50. The increase in income might seem small, but not for those in poverty, especially Hondurans who live in extreme poverty, off of less than $2 a day. For reference, the middle-income country poverty rate is around $5.50.

Poverty is slow to decline in Honduras, yet successful development projects in Honduras show improvement in other areas. Infrastructure is improving through the help of the U.S. and the World Bank. Poverty declined gradually from about 65 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2017. Development projects in Honduras in rural areas, such as through electrification, education and health care improvements and road construction shows promise for improving livelihoods for Hondurans in poverty.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Haiti's Earthquake 10 Years Later
January 12, 2020, marked the 10th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of the small Caribbean nation of Haiti. People have taken time to remember what happened a decade ago, with one Haitian-American residing in Boston commenting, “I’m in pain. I’m in pain inside of me. Even my bones hurt me because of what’s happening in my country. We are human beings like everybody else, we have to live a life like everybody else.” Haiti has undeniably suffered greatly, but there is hope after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later.

The Devastating Aftermath of the Disaster

The quake also impacted Haiti’s neighboring country, the Dominican Republic. Two aftershocks followed with a magnitude of 5.9 and 5.5., making it the worst natural disaster the country has seen in modern times. Haiti is located above two of the earth’s tectonic plates, the North American and the Caribbean plates, making it prone to large earthquakes. At the beginning of 2010, many news outlets covered the aftermath of the disaster, leaving much of the world shocked.

Between 220,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives in the 2010 quake, 122 of them American citizens, leaving 300,000 more injured and 1.5 million displaced from their homes. Nearly 4,000 schools suffered damage or complete eradication. This resulted in an estimated $7.8 to $8.5 billion in damage.

The disaster left many people with families living in Haiti anxious, wondering if their loved ones had survived the catastrophe. Others fled the country in search of a better life elsewhere. Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti at the time of the earthquake called it “the worst catastrophe that has occurred in Haiti in two centuries.”

Foreign Aid Comes to the Rescue

In the midst of what seemed like the absence of hope, many Haitians prayed for help. Within a few days, foreign powers from all over the world responded, willing to aid the survivors with their needs. Within a day, President Obama stated that the United States would provide their “unwavering support” for the people of Haiti pledging $100 million in financial support.

Members of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy arrived in the country to assist the survivors of the earthquake with their medical needs. Outside of the United States, the European Commission promised $4.37 million in aid. In Asia, the South Korean and Indian governments provided $1 million in aid, and the Japanese government granted $5 million. Japan also donated a total of $330,000 value in tents and blankets for those without shelter.

Doctors and aircrafts supplied with food and water swarmed in quickly from countries such as Sweden, Brazil, Israel and Venezuela. It seemed as if the entire world had its eyes on Haiti. People all across the globe prayed for the relief Haitians needed to rebuild their lives and recover from such a traumatic event.

Haiti 10 Years Later

Despite the overwhelming efforts from foreign powers across the world in the aftermath of the earthquake, the earthquake has impacted Haiti even 10 years later. While the world has still not forgotten the 2010 earthquake, relief efforts often diminish because there are more recent natural disasters that require attention. When remembering the anniversary of such events, especially ones that occurred in impoverished nations, it is important to remember that relief efforts should not cease once mass media outlets elect to move on to new events.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with about eight out of every 10 citizens living in poverty. Six years after the earthquake, Hurricane Matthew affected Haiti in early October 2016, the most powerful storm to affect the country in decades and resulting in almost $2 billion in damage.

In the 2000s, hurricanes like but not exclusive to Hurricanes Ike and Hanna, also affected Haiti resulting in flooding and hundreds of lives lost. Haiti’s economy is highly susceptible as a result of its location and the possibility of earthquakes and hurricanes. Because each disaster results in such high costs in damage when a majority of its people already live on only $2 a day, this poses a significant problem in providing a long-term solution for Haitians in need.

As of January 2020, many Haitian children face malnutrition due to high levels of food insecurity and infections, resulting in the deaths of infants, ages 2 and under. Many mothers also still face complications in childbirth resulting in death.

Much of these statistics do not appear to be promising on the surface, appearing as it virtually nothing has changed in a decade despite support from foreign powers during the country’s time of need. However, Haitians still refuse to discard their efforts for a better and more prosperous Haiti. In 2019, many Haitians protested the government and President Jovenel Moise. Haitians say that while citizens are “used to political and economic crises,” the cost of necessities such as food, gas and education has gone up significantly. These protests have continued into January 2020.

Reach Our World and the World Bank

Others around the world have also not given up on their efforts to create a stronger Haiti, even after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later. Reach Our World is one of the missionary groups that visited Port Au Prince shortly after the 10th anniversary of the quake from January 17 to 22, 2020. As of January 8, 2020, ongoing contributions from the World Bank, consisting of 20 projects, have grossed $866.46 million.

Therefore, while the mass media outlets do not commonly cover the continuing political and economic tensions existing after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later, many advocacy groups and world powers have not forgotten about the work that the world still needs to accomplish to help further the nation and its people. In order to become more successful in such efforts, it is imperative to be consistent and not wait until another natural disaster strikes to contribute to relief efforts so that the people of Haiti can achieve a stronger and brighter future.

A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

the global fragility act
The Global Fragility Act of 2019 (H.R.2116/S.727) is one of the first-ever whole-of-government efforts to recognize regions where violent conflict exists or could potentially arise and address those issues through diplomatic, development and security efforts. Its main goal is not only to stabilize these areas but also prevent the emergence of violent conflict in countries that are at a higher risk or are more fragile due to a lack of governance and economic opportunity, as well as extreme poverty.

What Is the Problem?

With the current levels of humanitarian crises and extreme poverty worldwide, there is a great need for a bill like the Global Fragility Act. Globally there are over 134 million people that are in need of aid with the main causes being conflict and natural disasters. Additionally, over 550,000 people die annually as a result of violence, which has led to an increase in the need for aid from $3.5 billion in 2004 to about $20 billion currently. Unfortunately, when some provide assistance to address these issues, places mostly use it to address the consequences of violence rather than the root causes.

What Is the Global Fragility Act?

The Global Fragility Act is a bipartisan measure that will steer away from the focus placed on the symptoms of violence and instead solve the problem before it starts. It covers 12 different goals which will address the causes of fragility such as instability, weak governance and a lack of economic opportunities. The bill will resolve these issues by enhancing stabilization in the areas where conflict is prevalent.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the bill aims to “establish an interagency initiative/strategy to reduce fragility and violence, select pilot countries where the U.S. will implement the initiative, provide critical funds for stabilization, prevention and crisis response, [and] mandate evaluation and accountability.”

The inter-agency initiative is the first of its kind and will include the joint efforts of the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and USAID. These agencies will select countries and regions where conflict and violence are the most prevalent based on the most current data available regarding fragility, violence and number of people forcibly displaced, among other indicators. Additionally, the Global Fragility Act will also establish the Stabilization and Prevention Fund and the Complex Crises Fund. The Department of State and USAID will manage these with the intention of taking preventative or responsive measures to crises. Furthermore, the Act will also establish indicators to monitor the progress in the pilot regions, while also requiring the agencies involved to send biennial reports to Congress regarding how the program has developed in each region.

Who Are Its Sponsors?

The Global Fragility Act is a bipartisan effort given that it addresses issues that go beyond party adherence. As has been mentioned there are two versions of this bill, the House H.R.2116 bill and the Senate S.727 bill. Sponsors for the House bill include the following: Representatives Engel (D-NY), McCaul (R-TX), A. Smith (D-WA), Wagner (R-MO), Keating (D-MA) and Rooney (R-FL).

The senators in support of the S.727 bill include Senators Coons (D-DE), Graham (R-SC), Merkley (D-OR), Rubio (R-FL) and Young (R-IN). There are a number of additional supporters, but these are the main sponsors, as well as the ones who introduced the bills to their respective chambers.

Where Does It Stand Now?

Currently, the Global Fragility Act has passed in the House of Representatives; however, it has yet to be approved in the Senate. On June 25, 2019, the Bill went to the Senate for consideration. Once the Senate approves it, it will then move on to the President to sign into law. However, everyone needs to support it for it to receive approval. The U.S. public can involve themselves and help turn this bill into law. U.S. senators are only a call, email or letter away. Constituents can find their senator’s contact information here and they can email Congress here. Voicing support for this bill would not only contribute to raising people out of poverty but also strengthening U.S. national security.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Pixabay

 

History of The United States Agency of International Development
Foreign aid refers to any donation that one country makes to help another. The United States has proven itself to be a leading figure in foreign aid projects through the work of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). This article focuses on the history of USAID.

USAID is the United States’ foreign aid branch which is responsible for diminishing poverty, innovating development and ideological progress around the world. The organization harbors an interesting history scattered with different approaches and methods. Each decade has acted as an era to test new theories on how to best assuage purveying poverty.

A Quick Historical View

On November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that created the first U.S. agency that would take on global development challenges. USAID emerged “with a spirit of progress and innovation.”

The need for a specific agency to handle global development projects became clear after World War II. The Marshall Plan, active from 1945 to 1949, focused on rebuilding European nations after the damaging war. This demonstrated to U.S. lawmakers that providing assistance to stabilize countries is an effective way of initiating positive change. The 1960s was the decade of development. International powers united under the belief that poverty was a moral blot in the world. Groups like UNICEF and UNDP formed to strengthen infrastructure and industrialization in third-world countries.

Since its early stages, USAID has morphed and shifted focuses. The 1970s had a humanitarian ideal, the 1980s a market-based one and the 1990s saw an effort to stabilize democracy. The 2000s have thus far been reminiscent of USAID’s original purpose.  The all too numerous episodes of violence and war have caused much of USAID’s efforts to go towards rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods and governments.

How Does USAID Implement Aid?

The history of USAID shows that while the organization has taken on multiple approaches, funding methods have remained stagnant. USAID sometimes gives donations to governments and predominantly channels them through NGOs that use the money for very specific purposes.

Many NGOs use their budget to directly affect the lives of individuals and families. Communities receive humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. Events like these are particularly harmful to impoverished individuals, as many of them rely on agriculture as the sole means of income. Education and health services are also a primary focus of NGO groups as these are both methods to bring third-world countries onto the modern development stage.

 Which Countries Receive the Most Aid?

There are over 100 countries that receive foreign aid assistance from USAID. The history of USAID shows that countries riddled with violence are often the highest receivers.

To date, USAID has given Afghanistan the most foreign aid from the United States. The country has received a considerable $4.89 billion in total. About 73 percent of this aid has gone directly to military projects. Counter-terrorist projects are particularly important in Afghanistan, as USAID attempts to stabilize legal and judicial systems that work to hinder the threat of violent groups. This not only protects the domestic Afghan population but also works to improve U.S. national security.

Iraq, Israel and Jordan are the next three countries that receive the most foreign aid assistance from USAID. The purpose of these donations is similar to that of Afghanistan.

Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya are also big receivers but for different reasons as economic aid is the primary concern. These programs are diverse and unique to the concerns of each country. Many, however, focus on relieving the spread of disease and allocating food security to suffering populations.

 A Recent Project

When reviewing the history of USAID, it is difficult to pick just one outstanding success. The record has shown that it has integrated democracy, erected countless schools and brought the miracles of modern-day science to neglected regions.

One of its recent projects that focuses on agriculture shows that USAID plans for the future and is also pragmatic. The Avansa Agrikultura Project from April 2015 to March 2020  focuses on farming in East Timor. At its completion, the project should help 5,500 individuals in earning more income and benefitting from a nutritious diet. USAID hopes to improve the daily goings of farm life in East Timor in addition to opening international trade markets to recipients.

A glance at the history of USAID personifies it as an organization dedicated to eradicating worldwide poverty through appropriate methods. With its record, it is no secret that this U.S. foreign aid branch poses as an international leader and will more than likely continue to be so in the future.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr


Every year Congress must approve the fiscal budget, which includes a request for foreign aid spending from the current Secretary of State. By examining the proposals for foreign aid spending through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2008 to 2020, it highlights the United States’ international goals and concerns. A common thread amongst all three budgets is a concern of national security and instability within foreign nations.

The 2008 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary Condoleezza Rice

In the 2008 Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined the international concerns of the Bush Administration. As a whole, Secretary Rice requested $36.2 billion in funding from Congress for the 2008 fiscal year, as well as $6 billion in supplemental funding in 2007 for, as she details, additional expenses from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Secretary Rice stated that the overarching goal of this budget for foreign aid spending is to “mobilize our [the U.S.] democratic principles, our diplomacy, our development assistance and our compassion to win what will be a generational struggle.” As a result of this priority, much of the outlined spending in the report focused on the allocation of funds to programs that support democracy-building programs, peacekeeping, diplomacy and child-health programs. The United States, Secretary Rice details, ought to shift from a historically paternalistic relationship towards other nations in the world and, rather, act in partnership with foreign countries in the hope that it can establish positive and lasting change.

The 2016 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary John Kerry

In the 2016 Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concerns that were similar to those of Secretary Rice under the Bush Administration. In 2016, the international sphere continued to face uncertainty. He places emphasis on this by asking that Congress “begin by understanding what is at stake – by realizing that our overseas actions, the alliances and partnerships that we form, the cooperation we engender, and the investments we make have a direct bearing on the safety of our citizens and the quality of life enjoyed by our people.” The budget that Secretary Kerry requested $50.3 billion from Congress, a marked increase from the proposal of Secretary Rice in 2008.

Despite a change in the party — from Republican to Democrat — the concerns of each administration are the same. In the 2016 proposed budget for foreign aid spending, Secretary Kerry expresses concern on behalf of the Obama Administration for the stability of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, as well as for the health, education and safety of families around the world. Secretary Kerry asked for the allocation of $7 billion to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which works to establish stable political environments in volatile regions in which the U.S. involves itself. Also included in this budget is $5.6 billion in humanitarian aid for Migration and Refugee Assistance, International Disaster Assistance and food assistance. On a similar note to the 2008 proposal, Secretary Kerry states that “the United States will continue to do its part to ease suffering and prepare the groundwork for recovery.”

The 2020 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary Michael Pompeo

The 2020 Congressional Budget Justification from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo strikes a different note from the previous two administrations. While a concern towards international security remains, Secretary Pompeo focuses on foreign aid spending with a more exclusionary approach to international relations.

At the start of his proposal, Secretary Pompeo outlines the concerns for international security that lie in the denuclearization of North Korea as well as the “great-power competition against China and Russia.” Secretary Pompeo currently has requested $40 billion in foreign aid spending, a decrease from the amount requested in 2016. He states that the funds will be “to protect our diplomats and our borders, recruit and develop our workforce, and continue to modernize our IT infrastructure.” The funding for democracy strengthening programs as well as health and education in poor nations continues, but a tone of gradual withdrawal from direct involvement in global affairs persists in the language used by Secretary Pompeo throughout the proposal.

Funding to international organizations has faced cuts with a decrease of $141.46 billion to approximately $2.15 billion. Overseas programs have also faced cuts with a decrease of $69.33 billion to approximately $1.52 billion and requested funding for border security is $3.75 billion. To conclude his budget request, Secretary Pompeo states that “we must continue to put U.S. interests first and be a beacon of freedom to the world.”

Throughout all three administrations, a concern for the changing and uncertain status of the international sphere is present. Foreign aid spending peaked under the Obama administration, but both the Bush and Obama administrations focused on direct U.S. involvement in world affairs as a means of spreading peace and democracy, while the Trump administration appears to have turned its focus on protecting the U.S. from threats abroad.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Media Defense